WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's nominee to lead the U.S. intelligence community told senators Tuesday that among the global threats facing the nation, he would immediately focus on the coronavirus pandemic.
"The immediate concern that I have is getting answers," U.S. Representative John Ratcliffe said during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
"If confirmed, the intelligence community will be laser-focused on getting all the answers that we can regarding how this happened," he said.
The coronavirus has infected more than 3.6 million worldwide, and though many have recovered more than 254,430 have died. In the U.S. more than 1.1 million cases have been reported so far, with nearly 70,115 deaths, the most of any nation, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The unfolding health crisis caused by the coronavirus is the latest issue to rattle relations between Beijing and Washington. The world's two largest economies were already engaged in a disruptive trade war and feuding over the unrest in semiautonomous Hong Kong.
Ratcliffe, who if confirmed will lead the nation's 17 intelligence agencies, said that he viewed China as the greatest threat to the United States, on many fronts. He listed China's ambition to grow its own empire through the Belt and Road Initiative and the nation's race to dominate technologies like artificial intelligence, 5G and quantum computing.
"I won't say all roads lead to China, but a lot of them do," he said.